Review of 2020

top nine of 2020

Every year I do a review of the past year, what worked what didn’t. When I look back through my Instagram feed it’s just amazing how much happens over a year. Some of the events seems like a lifetime ago. This year’s review is a mix of zero waste wins & loses and readjustments of perspective and outlooks for the forthcoming year.

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Buying Second Hand (Hit) – The first year that I purposely aimed to mostly buy second-hand I kept a list of all my purchases to tot up at the end of the year. I’d successfully past the 80% benchmark I’d set myself. Since then I’ve become so good at mostly buying second-hand that I’m going to switch to just listing ‘new’ things I buy – it’ll be shorter.

Charity Shops (Miss) – I’ve had to switch where I shop too. Over the past few years I’ve found it increasingly hard to find quality stuff in charity shops. Maybe other people have discovered the wonderful world of charity shops, or more people are choosing to sell stuff online or rehoming through free-cycle pages instead of donating, or maybe generally people are just buying lower-quality stuff that breaks before it gets into charity shops. I’m now finding I buy more on Adverts and Facebook Marketplace instead. I especially like the fact that I can set up alerts for specific things for Adverts.

Preloved homeware brand (Miss) – Last year I had hoped to start selling pre-loved homeware and I attended a few fairs and sold quite a bit but the outside of the zero waste community the interest just wasn’t there. I realise now that what people buy almost matters less than the theatre of sparkly lights, tissue paper, and ding of the cash register. I haven’t given up on this idea completely but as I’m not willing to invest in a store I’m going to have to rethink how it happens.

TV appearances (Hit) – Earlier this year my appearance on Nationwide aired, and then I was on Ireland AM briefly. I got a spike in new followers after the Nationwide feature but not Ireland AM, probably because there was no mention of my social media accounts or website. Lesson learnt! I really would love to do a regular slot on one of the daily shows but efforts to secure one have fallen on deaf ears to date.

Sewing (Miss) – I had high hopes of getting more sewing done this year and was thrilled with myself for working out how to operate my aunts vintage sewing machine but college work took over and, so this has been put on the back burner until after hand-in mid Jan 2021.

Redesign of the website (Hit) – I’m delighted that I got a chance to redesign the website this year. It’d been on my mind for a while having realised that most people come to the website looking for specific information, not just to read my latest article. I’ve also been slowly revising articles to improve their ranking in search engines and it’s beginning to have an impact with 110,000 visitors in 2020 alone!

Tomato Seeds (Hit) – Planting tomato seeds saved on tissue paper was a big success this year and one that I’ll definitely be repeating again. I’m trying to save more seed year on year and this autumn I saved lettuce, coriander and bean seeds from my garden. Looking forward to planting them up next spring!

Wildlife Gardening (Hit) – I’ve always tried to plant flowers for pollinators but I’m now trying to support a wider range of wildlife, with fruit bushes and seed heads for birds, and habitats for insects and invertebrates. We even bought a locally made bird box to put up. I also installed a teeney weeney pond. Not sure it’s going to work but it was free so worth a go.

Strawberry plants (Miss) – I finally rehomed these after admitting defeat by the local squirrel population. I’m hoping a new batch of Alpine strawberries prove less attractive to these little blighters.

Local Holidays (Hit) – What with Corona we were forced to holiday in Ireland this year, which was surprisingly very enjoyable. I did miss not having a change in culture, and I’m not sure I’m ready to give up on a foreign holiday yet but it did remind just how much Ireland has to offer.

Hand-powered Coffee Grinder (Miss) – I picked up one of these in a charity shop so it was worth a punt. It had a ceramic grinder and so was reasonable quality but the time it took to grind the coffee just made it non viable for our family. I managed to rehome it to someone via a Freecycle page.

Multiseed Swedish Crackers (Hit) – Divine, easy to make and a great way to get more seeds into your diet. Love this recipe for multiseed swedish crackers.

Pit Putty Deodorant (Miss) – Despite early success this didn’t work for us in the end, causing a rash on the person using it. Pity. I loved the smell of it.

Planet Positive Newsletters (Hit) – Personally I’m really enjoying writing these. It’s really helps to abate any eco anxiety I have. Yes, there are lots of bad things happening in the world, but there’s good too and it’s lovely to focus on them instead. Just subscribe to the website by email if you’d like to receive them.

Houseplants (Hit) – Like most I have fallen for their leafy ways in 2020 and now am a proud owner of 17 house plants. This isn’t really a sustainable habit at all if you buy them new but it really helps my mental health and it’s connected me with a local community of houseplant lovers, which is fab.  I have bought a few plants in stores, but try to limit it to independently owned garden centres, but all my pots are second-hand. My favourite way to get a plant is via the wonderful Dublin Plant Swap FB group! All my pots are second-hand, which I’m very proud of. All I have to do now is keep them alive till spring!

Homemade Chai Tea (Hit) – When I ran out of this a while back I created my own with stuf from the store cupboard and some orange peel that I’d dried in the oven. OMG, delish and in my opinion better than shop bought. My recipe includes normal tea, cloves, star anise, pepper corns, cinnamon bark and the aforementioned orange peel.

Green Tomato Chutney (Hit) – Another batch of deliciousness to add to my pantry of homemade goodies. I don’t make a lot of homemade goods cause I’ve fussy, ungrateful family members (only kidding – not really), but the two things I do tend to make every year is jam and green tomato chutney. I had intended on making pickled cucumber too as I love that but never got the chance to. That’s a project for 2021.

Local Gardening Swap Group (Hit) – I’ve met such lovely people through local freecycle pages so I decided to set up a local gardening one to make it easier to rehome extra plants that I always end up with in spring and autumn. It’s started well with quite a few swaps going on. I’m hoping it becomes a nice little hub of sustainable horticulturalism that will help forge better bonds in my community.

Microgreens (Hit) – These were a big success and so easy to grown. I tried pea shoots, which worked very well but my daughter wasn’t keen on the taste so I’ll try something else. Definitely a great way to get fresh leaves in the winter months.

Masters in Circular Design (Hit) – I’ve really enjoyed researching circular design and the circular economy over the past 15months, and I think I now have a clear vision of where I fit in the sustainable design landscape and where I might have the most impact. I’m really excited about my plans in this sphere. Stay tune for more info in 2021.

Health (Miss) – My health this year was the worst it’s ever been. I’ve had chest infections every month since March, coupled with crippling shoulder pain from excessive computer work in April and May, and then to top it all all I developed IBS in March. It’s taken months of research to find the route of my IBS, which sort of wiped out the summer. I think I’m finally past the chest infections and have the IBS mostly under-control (i.e. I’m not crying in my bed twice a month from pain) but I really have to manage my lifestyle and diet in order to avoid relapses, which doesn’t really marry well with a fast approaching college deadline.

Letting Go / Doing Less (Hit) – With the demands of college I’ve had to pull back on something I wasn’t really aware I was doing; managing other people’s wasteful behaviour. Not being around to remind people to eat fruit that’s going soft or buy an item package-free means we’ve ended up with more waste than normal. That said, and I almost feel guilty for saying this, it’s been liberating. I didn’t realise how much of a mental load it all was. Yes it means my kids got way more new plastic than I’d like this Christmas and we binned way more food and plastic packaging than I’m comfortable with but that’s on others. I can only do me.

Creativity & Playing (Hit) – My masters this year also reminded me of the value of play and experimentation. In our busy lives we’re often rushing to get to the solution, which often means buying something, whereas real creativity only emerges when things slow down. I wonder if the slowness brought about by corona might lead to an explosion of creative ideas. I’ve also been reminded of the value of ‘goal-ess’ experimentation, just testing to see what might happen, what might emerge. Some of my best insights in 2020 came from doing something completely unconnected. In 2021 I’m going to selfishly carve out idleness in order to daydream and experiment without objectives and goals.

Hope your 2020 was manageable, given everything we’ve all been through. Here’s to hugs returning in 2021!

Thanks for reading


PS – You can read my other annual reviews here;

Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy

2 thoughts on “Review of 2020

  1. Firstly, so sorry to hear you’ve been so ill and glad to hear you plan to carve out some time for idleness -you work so hard!
    I love your honesty in all your posts because so much resonates with me and helps motivate me!
    Wishing you a fantastic New Year, better health and time for yourself xx


    1. Thanks so much. I am a bit of a workaholic but to be honest I like doing stuff. I get restless when I don’t have a project on a go. I remember a councillor once saying to me your a ‘human being’ not a ‘human doing’. That relationship didn’t last. Ha, ha.

      Glad you like the articles. I don’t see the point in being anything other than honest. If people can’t trust what you’re saying then what’s the point. It has no benefit for them and is just a waste of human energy.

      Have a fabulous 2021. May it be full of lots of love and laughter.

      Liked by 1 person

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